The aim of this study was to identify determinants of the nutrition labelling (NL) use and explore its association with the adherence to Mediterranean Diet (MD) in Spanish health university students. We performed a cross-sectional analysis of the baseline data from 1026 university students aged 17-35 years enrolled in the DiSA-UMH (Dieta, Salud y Antropometría-Universidad Miguel Hernández) cohort study. Students were asked about their NL use by the following question: "Do you usually read the nutrition labelling of packaged foods?" (No, Yes). Dietary intake was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire and the adherence to MD was measured by relative Mediterranean Diet score (rMED). Socio-demographic, lifestyle, and anthropometric variables were also collected. Multiple logistic regression models were applied for the analysis. Fifty-eight percent of the students were NL users and were most likely to be women (Odds Ratio (OR): 1.38; 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.01-1.89), be older (OR per year: 1.08; 95% CI: 1.03-1.13), be physically active/very active (OR: 1.68; 95% CI: 1.17-2.41), and spend less time watching television (OR per hour: 0.84; 95% CI: 0.74-0.95). After adjusting for potential confounding factors, our findings suggested that those university students who had higher adherence to MD used NL greatly (OR per 2 points increase: 1.30; 95% CI: 1.18-1.43) and had a larger consumption of fish (OR per 100 g/day: 1.94; 95 CI: 1.38-2.71), vegetables (OR per 100 g/day: 1.15; CI 95%: 1.08-1.12), and fruits (OR per 100 g/day: 1.22; 1.11-1.34) and a smaller intake of meats (OR per 100 g/day: 0.76; 95% CI: 0.58-0.99). Our approach contributes to exploring the role of NL use as a suitable tool to make healthier food choices from a different wider perspective based on dietary patterns such as MD, which can also indicate an overall healthy lifestyle. Given the lack of research in Mediterranean areas, further studies focused on exploring the potential role of NL in promoting healthy dietary habits are required.
Keywords: Mediterranean diet; nutrition labelling use; student; young adult.